Coffee, cardboard, and Youtube

I thought I’d put together a post today that shares an idea I have for my space. While still little more than a track plan I am starting to think about it now in terms of time and place and find myself really becoming more and more satisfied with it.

Enter stage right and exit stage right.

On the previous layout I enjoyed the feeling of switching cars but missed the sense of how the line I was working related to the outside world; I missed the implication of a connection to the rest of the world that staging can provide. All three of the micro layouts that preceded it used a variation on the removable cassette idea for staging as a means to introduce stock to the layout and carry away cars leaving centre stage. While my cassettes worked very well on the HO layout, their design made it difficult to plug them into the N scale layouts and I was constantly compensating for issues of vertical alignment and electrical continuity. With those regrets still fresh in my mind, I committed that the new layout would avoid the issue altogether and the “fiddling” normally done off-stage would just be done directly on the layout. It’s been rewarding to provide an opportunity to experience each alternative and, having done so, I understand the value of this off-stage connection. With this new venture I want some form of staging (or fiddle yard). Before starting construction, I’ll need to explore the design and construction approaches I could use for this small yard to resolve the shortcomings of previous attempts.

“I could build a layout that wasn’t much more than a plain length of flex track and spend hours just running up and down that line and never get bored”

I’m lucky enough to be part of a regular operating group. As if that wasn’t fortune enough, I’m a yard guy and on the layouts that comprise that group’s I get to spend my evenings in their yards. On one of the lines my regular yard power is one of the new, sound-equipped, Rapido Trains GMD1 diesels. I really enjoy the quality of sound from that model and on more than one occasion have found myself remarking as I did above. The unit is such a joy to run and listen to while operating, I could just spend an evening running it up and down a single yard of track. It’s not just the sound but how running this model has reminded me of how important an aspect of model railfanning is to me. In that yard, at the throttle of that GMD1, I probably spend as much time working the yard as I do just enjoying how good it feels to watch that engine going about its work. I’d like a layout on which I can watch trains doing what trains do and not just moving models.

This layout should support model railfanning during the operating session. In addition to time happily spent sketching ideas on paper, I should invest more time in arranging the scene using mocked up elements. Sheathing the frame with cardboard as I mentioned earlier is a step in this direction. A further investment in this thought is to spend some time and mock up operating sessions on the plan using stock, buildings, and track I have on hand. If I like the way the layout feels when just placing things by hand crudely that might serve as a better indicator of how good it could look when a more formal installation is attempted. “Design. Edit. Design.” I’ll chant to myself quietly when I need to remind myself to check my own work.

Today. Here I am.

I thought I’d share some thoughts on the direction my design work is headed in and some of the thoughts on “how” and “why”.

I mentioned staging above. In my one by six foot shelf I doubt I should sacrifice an entire end to a fiddle yard for off-layout staging. I anticipate a train length of two feet and this off-layout approach would then demand a full third of what’s available. I could try something that hinges on either free end but in a room I share with other people they may soon tire of having to navigate around an overhanging fiddle yard on train night. Luckily I know that I’m a very big fan of a British approach to incorporating this fiddle yard within the scene. A personal favourite illustration of this approach is show in Maurice Hopper’s Stroudley Green. The S Scale Society has a nice web page showing the layout plan and some photos of the layout itself. I like how a smaller, narrower, fiddle yard is placed in the scene with the layout wrapping around and in front. This can fit in my space and if I do this, I still get to take advantage of the full six feet for scenic elements. In this small space I’ll need to explore how to hide this space and the entry to it.

Mike Confalone models a style of railroading that is very close to my heart and my railfanning past. In this Youtube video we see a short section on his layout at Andover. This scene, in HO scale, approximately the same area as I have available in N and shows a variation on the British approach introduced above. I like this a lot and think there are some design ideas in her to carry forward into my own work.

I took some time and put together a mock-up showing one possible arrangement that summarizes the above. Here are some photos.

I like the general arrangement of elements in the space. With the narrow shelf, the area at the entry to the fiddle yard is tight. In this plan the fiddle yard is a sector plate and forms the opposite end of the runaround loop.

I dug out some cars and locomotives and mocked up an operating session. I’ll post photos from that next.

Categories: Prince Street Layout

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5 replies

  1. I love how much thought you are putting into this!

    That video was great. Love that sound and I’m glad they used a tripod.. the videography was good.

    • Thanks Steve

      The hobby is art and craft. The model itself is a product of a design process and I’m always keen to share the the road to that end.

      The video is pretty great. I didn’t include a link but elsewhere in Youtube search for Woodsville Terminal for a great, albeit short, video of a C420 leading a short string of chip hoppers into that same scene. Again, superb sound, very reminiscent of an era in railroading that I think both of us fondly remember.

      Thanks again


  2. There’s something great in this Chris. I have every confidence you’ll find it and bring it out.



  1. Layout Thoughts and Cardboard Planning | 78 Miles to Yosemite

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